Business opportunities in Nigeria

May 4, 2008

Business opportunities in Nigeria

I go around nigeria and i noticed that the big business, manufacturing and construction companies are owned either by Indians or Lebanese. Okay, in Lagos the Chinese are into restaurant, manufacturing companies and casinos. Lebanese are into gaming, casinos, construction, manufacturing and import/export. Indians are into import/export, telecoms, stores, restaurants, and manufacturing plants.

And where are the Filipinos situated in Nigeria? Workers… OFWs..

One Lebanese friend told me that from his village in Lebanon, all the richest men made their money from Nigeria. And that any young man is considered ‘not cool’ if he has not been to Nigeria. They consider Nigeria as a sort of extended village of Lebanon and the ‘way’ to get rich. All they need is guts and right connections.

I wonder why Filipinos are not interested in investing in Nigeria.  Among SE Asian countries, only the Chinese and Koreans have strong business presence. Even Indonesians have cashed in on the West African market.

This considering that Nigeria welcomes foreign investments with open arms.

Business Opportunities

Do you know Nigeria is facing the Atlantic Ocean? And yet, fish supply is negligible and the country sometimes need to import fish from neighboring countries. The ’sardinas’ here is labeled ‘Product of Thailand’. The squid and oyster-in-can are ‘Product of Indonesia’.  Why? Because the fishing industry in Nigeria has not reached commercial capacity despite its rich fishing grounds. This is good area for investment — fishing and canning.

Food and Beverage

Nigerian are the largest consumer of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage in West Africa. Guiness beer and malt products are the number one here. Heineken is brewed by the Nigerian Brewery, which also produces Star, Gulder, and Guiness Stout. The sweetened malt-based drinks are also big hit among the locals. I am sure San Miguel will be able to challenge Nigerian Brewery products with SMB Pilsen, Cerveza Negra and Red Horse beer. Along the way, we can copy the sweetened malt drink and market back to Philippines.

There is a rumor that KFC might be coming to Lagos. For now, the only foreign named fastfood chain is that of Nando’s (South Africa). I don’t know if the Nigerian goverment purposedly protect the local fastfood industry from foreign competition since I never saw any western-brand fastfood chain here. But Jollibee in Victoria Island and Abuja will sure beat KFC and McDonald’s (if ever it comes to Lagos also.)

Ice cream, fruit shake, pearl coollers will also make good business in Nigeria because the raw materials are cheap. Magnolia and Selecta will make a sorbetero out this “Fan” Ice Cream here.


Nigeria’s telecoms is anchored on wireless providers. Landline service (NITEL) is almost nil because of the decaying telecoms infrastructure and corruption. So the mobile providers makes big money. Despite the presence of several mobile companies, they are still unable to provide sufficient service, with all the busy trunks and delayed SMS, and service shutdown. Smart, Globe and Sun will make waves here. This 2008, Middle East-based companies like Zain and Etisalat have entered the mobile market of Nigeria.

Internet access is exclusively wireless (radio and sat). Internet cafes cannot offer internet gaming because of the low bandwidth that is offered by companies. Indians are doing well with IT companies and corporate telecoms requirement.

Downstream Steel industry

You will see the testament of Nigeria’s heyday by the numerous junk cars (european brands) on the roads and in junkyards. Piles of washing machines and fridges also. I think in those times, Nigerians imported almost everything leading to the collapse of local manufacturing capability. Steel mill factory and metal recycling is a good opportunity here.


Construction is big business in Nigeria. Not only of commercial buildings but also government road projects. The leading company is Julius Berger Plc where more than half of its expat staff are Filipinos. Lebanese are also big players in construction. There are many abandoned constructions all over Nigeria. Some reasons is the spriraling prices of cement and construction materials and government stopping the construction because of haphazard structural design and shortcutting the mix of materials (some buildings collapsed).  Since the Nigerian government is already familiar with Filipinos in construction industry, the entry of Filipino construction company will be welcomed and stands a big chance of getting big projects.


Indians controlled the major port of Apapa. In fact, there are streets in Apapa named after Indian places like “Bombay Crescent”, “Calcutta Street”, among others.. From stowage, warehousing, transporting and ship chandling. But as you know, there are Pinoy seamen in Nigeria, especially in oil-rich delta, manning ships that handle transports of crews, supplies and oil.

Medical and Education sector also promises big business in Nigeria. HMOs are also a growing industry here. Supply and maintenance of medical equipment is a big business opportunity.

Solid Waste management & Recycling is also a promising business in Nigeria. The use of cellophane and plastic bottles has cause a blight on the environment that 80% of the tons of trash is made up of these materials.


Improved mode of transportation is just beginning to be implemented. With protests from the small time operators who used dilapidated vans and rolling coffins they call ‘Molue’ buses. Recently, the Lagos state has started deploying modern Benz buses to run on major thoroughfares. The state government made sure the buses have their own lane and speacially designated drop-and-pick zones. You will see long queues of people lining for their turn to get into the bus.  Hino Nissan (Santarosa?) and FMC can do business here to build big buses.

Balikbayan Box/Cargo Forwarding

With more than 5000 OFWs here, i have heard numerous clamor for a ‘balikbayan’ box business. One Pinoy attempted to establish it and there were plenty of OFW customers. Unfortunately, the attempt ended in disaster when the Nigerian contact turned out to be a 419 scammer and ran away with the money. There are reputable Nigerian freight forwarders that Filipino cargo forwarders can partner with. I hope LBC or JRS will be encourage to come to Nigeria.

Consider this, OFWs in Nigeria are all professionals. There are no domestic helpers (nannies), nurses and doctors. Most work in oil companies, airlines, construction, and manufacturing companies. So imagine the spending power of these pinoys.

If the Lebanese and Indians made millions here by making/risking investment, why are Filipino entrepreneurs afraid to invest in Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular??

State Visit

Well, for starter, the government should consider a Presidential State Visit to Nigeria. Madam Arroyo would go down in history as the only Filipino head of state to have visited an African state. This will also allow a creation of economic cooperation between Nigeria and Philippines.

The State visit will also let our “friends and supporters” in DFA, POEA, DOLE and OWWA to see and hear the real status of peace and order in Nigeria, not just the oil regions, so they will know that the present TOTAL BAN is illogical. Maybe the Philippines will end buying bunker oil from Nigeria at discounted price.

Then maybe create a Philippine-Nigeria Business Cooperation Office, to facilitate  mutual investments by both Filipinos and Nigerian investors.

It is a requirement in Nigeria to have a Nigerian in the management level. Better if there is a reputable partner. While their are unsavory business practices in Nigeria, but is nothing unusual to us Filipinos — just the same as in Philippines.
The Brave and the Few

Very few Filipino residents in Nigeria have set up businesses. There is one Pinay (Niger-wife) in Enugu (Southeast Nigeria) who owns a bakeshoppe. Another Pinay Niger-wife married a Nigerian doctor and they operate a hospital in Lagos (Humana Hospital). A Niger-wife based in Port Harcourts owns and manages Barrio Fiesta Hotel and Restaurant. Other than these intrepid women, i haven’t heard of any Filipinos owning a manufacturing or trading business in Nigeria.

Well then, i hope that more OFWs will use their hard-earned money to re-invest either in the Philippines or in their host country where they have residency.